Constitution of North Carolina : December 18, 1776 (1) (2)
A DECLARATION OF RIGHTS, &C.
I. That all political power is vested in and derived from
the people only.
II. That the people of this State ought to have the sole
and exclusive right of regulating the internal government and
III. That no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive or
separate emoluments or privileges from the community, but in
consideration of public services.
IV. That the legislative, executive, and supreme judicial
powers of government, ought to be forever separate and distinct
from each other.
V. That all powers of suspending laws, or the execution of
laws, by any authority, without consent of the Representatives of
the people, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be
VI. That elections of members, to serve as Representatives
in General Assembly, ought to be free.
VII. That, in all criminal prosecutions, every man has a
right to be informed of the accusation against him, and to
confront the accusers and witnesses with other testimony, and
shall not be compelled to give evidence against himself.
VIII. That no freeman shall be put to answer any criminal
charge, but by indictment, presentment, or impeachment.
IX. That no freeman shall be convicted of any crime, but by
the unanimous verdict of a jury of good and lawful men, in open
court, as heretofore used.
X. That excessive bail should not be required, nor
excessive fines imposed, nor cruel or unusual punishments
XI. That general warrants -- whereby an officer or
messenger may he commanded to search suspected places, without
evidence of the fact conmlittecl, or to seize any person or
persons, not named, whose offences are not particularly described,
and supported by evidence -- are dangerous to liberty, and ought
not to be granted.
XII. That no freeman ought to be taken, imprisoned, or
disseized of his freehold liberties or privileges, or outlawed, or
exiled, or in any nlanller destroyed, or deprived of his life,
liberty, or property, but by the law of the land.
XIII. That every freeman, restrained of his liberty, is
entitled to a remedy, to inquire into the lawfulness thereof, and
to remove the same, if unlawful; and that such remedy ought not to
be denied or delayed.
XIV. That in all controversies at law, respecting property,
the ancient mode of trial, by jury, is one of the best securities
of the rights of the people, and ought to remain sacred and
XV. That the freedom of the press is one of the great
bulwarks of liberty, and therefore ought never to he restrained.
XVI. That the people of this State ought not to be taxed,
or made subject to the payment of any impost or duty, without the
consent of themselves, or their Representatives in General
Assembly, freely given.
XVII. That the people have a right to bear arms, for the
defence of the State; and, as standing armies, in time of peace,
are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that
the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and
governed by, the civil power.
XVIII. That the people have a right to assemble together,
to consult for their common good, to instruct their
Representatives, and to apply to the Legislature, for redress of
XIX. That all men have a natural and unalienable right to
worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own
XX. That, for redress of grievances, and for amending and
strengthening the laws, elections ought to be often held.
XXI. That a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles
is absolutely necessary, to preserve the blessings of liberty.
XXII. That no hereditary emoluments, privileges or honors
ought to be granted or conferred in this State.
XXIII. That perpetuities and monopolies are contrary to the
genius of a free State, and ought not to be allowed.
XXIV. That retrospective laws, punishing facts committed
before the existence of such laws, and by them only declared
criminal, are oppressive, unjust, and incompatible with liberty;
wherefore no ex post facto law ought to be made.
XXV. The property of the soil, in a free government, being
one of the essential rights of the collective body of the people,
it is necessary, in order to avoid future disputes, that the
limits of the State should be ascertained with precision; and as
the former temporary line between North and South Carolina, was
confirmed, and extended by Commissioners, appointed by the
Legislatures of the two States, agreeable to the order of the late
King George the Second, in Council, that line, and that only,
should be esteemed the southern boundary of this State as follows:
that is to say, beginning on the sea side, at a cedar stake, at or
near the mouth of Little River (being the southern extremity of
Brunswick county) and running from thence a northwest course,
through the boundary house, which stands in thirty-three degrees
fifty-six minutes, to thirty-five degrees north latitude; and from
thence a west course so far as is mentioned in the Charter of King
Charles the Second, to the late Proprietors of Carolina. Therefore
all the territories, seas, waters, and harbours, with their
appurtenances, lying between the line above described, and the
southern line of the State of Virginia, which begins on the sea
shore, in thirty-six degrees thirty minutes, north latitude, and
from thence runs west, agreeable to the said Charter of King
Charles, are the right and property of the people of this State,
to be held by them in sovereignty; any partial line, without the
consent of the Legislature of this State, at any time thereafter
directed, or laid out, in anywise notwithstanding: -- Provided
always, That this Declaration of Rights shall not prejudice any
nation or nations of Indians, from enjoying such hunting-grounds
as may have been, or hereafter shall be, secured to them by any
former or future Legislature of this State: -- And provided also,
That it shall not be construed so as to prevent the establishment
of one or more governments westward of this State, by consent of
the Legislature: -- And provided further, That nothing herein
contained shall affect the titles or repossessions of individuals
holding or claiming under the laws heretofore in force, or grants
heretofore made by the late King George the Second, or his
predecessors, or the late lords proprietors, or any of them.
THE CONSTITUTION, OR FORM OF GOVERNMENT,
WHEREAS allegiance and protection are, in their nature,
reciprocal, and the one should of right be refused when the other
And whereas George the Third, King of Great Britain, and
late Sovereign of the British American Colonies, hath not only
withdrawn from them his protection, but, by an act of the British
Legislature, declared the inhabitants of these States out of the
protection of the British crown, and all their property, found
upon the high seas, liable to be seized and confiscated to the
uses mentioned in the said act; and the said George the Third has
also sent fleets and armies to prosecute a cruel war against them,
for the purposed reducing the inhabitants of the said Colonies to
a state of abject slavery; in consequence whereof, all government
under the said King, within the said Colonies, hath ceased, and a
total dissolution of government in many of them hath taken place.
And whereas the Continental Congress, having considered the
premises, and other previous violation of the rights of the good
people of America, have therefore declared, that the Thirteen
United Colonies are, of right, wholly absolved from all allegiance
to the British crown or any other foreign jurisdiction whatsoever:
and that the said Colonies now are, and forever shall be, free and
Wherefore, in our present state, in order to prevent
anarchy and confusion, it becomes necessary that government should
be established in this State; therefore we, the Representatives of
the freemen of North-Carolina, chosen and assembled in Congress,
for the express purpose of framing a Constitution, under the
authority of the people, most conducive to their happiness and
prosperity, do declare, that a government for this State shall be
established, in manner and form following, to wit:
I.(3) That the legislative
authority shall be vested in two distinct branches both dependent
on the people, to wit, a Senate and House of Commons.
II.(3) That the Senate shall
be composed of Representatives annually chosen by ballot, one for
each county in the State.
III.(3) That the House of
Commons shall be composed of Representatives annually chosen by
ballot, two for each counts and one for each of the towns of
Edentown, Newbern, Wilmington, Salisbury, Hillsborough and
IV. That the Senate and House of Commons, assembled for the
purpose of legislation, shall be denominated, The General
V.(3) That each member of
the Senate shall have usually resided in the county in which he is
chosen for one year immediately preceding his election, and for
the same time shall have possessed, and continue to possess in the
county which he represents, not less than three hundred acres of
land in fee.
VI. That each member of the House of Commons shall have
usually resided in the county in which he is chosen for one year
immediatelv preceding his election, and for six months shall have
possessed, and continue to possess, in the county which he
represents, not less than one hundred acres of land in fee, or for
the term of his own life.
VII.(3) That all freemen, of
the age of twenty-one years, who have been inhabitants of any one
county within the State twelve months immediately preceding the
day of any election and possessed of a freehold within the same
county of fifty acres of land for six months next before, and at
the day of election, shall be entitled to vote for a member of the
VIII.(3) That all freemen of
the age of twenty-one Years, who have been inhabitants of any one
county within this State twelve months immediately preceding the
day of any election, and shall have paid public taxes shall be
entitled to vote for members of the House of Commons for the
county in which he resides.
IX.(3) That all persons
possessed of a freehold in any town in this State, having a right
of representation and also all freemen who have been inhabitants
of any such town twelve mouths next before and at the day of
election, and shall have paid public taxes, shall be entitled to
vote for a member to represent such town in the House of Commons:
-- Provided always, That this section shall not entitle any
inhabitant of such town to vote for members of the House of
Commons, for the county in which he may reside, nor any freeholder
in such county, who resides without or beyond the limits of such
town, to vote for a member for said town.
X. That the Senate and House of Commons, when met, shall
each have power to choose a speaker and other their officers; be
judges of the qualifications and elections of their members; sit
upon their own adjournments from day to day, and prepare bills, to
be passed into laws. The two Houses shall direct writs of election
for supplying intermediate vacancies; and shall also jointly, by
ballot, adjourn themselves to any future day and place.
XI. That all bills shall be read three times in each House,
before they pass into laws, and be signed by the Speakers of both
XII. That every person, who shall be chosen a member of the
Senate or House of Commons, or appointed to any office or place of
trust, before taking his seat, or entering upon the execution of
his office, shall take an oath to the State; and all officers
shall also take an oath of office.
XIII.(4) That the General
Assembly shall, by joint ballot of both houses, appoint Judges of
the Supreme Courts of Law and Equity, Judges of Admiralty, and
Attorney-General, who shall be commissioned by the Governor, and
hold their offices during good behavior.
XIV. That the Senate and House of Commons shall have power
to appoint the generals and field-officers of the militia, and all
officers of the regular army of this State.
XV.(4) That the Senate and
House of Commons, jointly at their first meeting after each annual
election, shall by ballot elect a Governor for one year, who shall
not be eligible to that office longer than three years, in six
successive years. That no person, under thirty years of age, and
who has not been a resident in this State above five years, and
having, in the State, a freehold in lands and tenements above the
value of one thousand pounds, shall be eligible as a Governor.
XIV. That the Senate and House of Commons, jointly, at
their first meeting after each annual election, shall by ballot
elect seven persons to be a Council of State for one year, who
shall advise the Governor in the execution of his office; 2 nd
that four members shall be a quorum; their advice and proceedings
shall be Altered in a journal, to be kept for that purpose only
and signed,by the members present; to any part of which, any
member present Nay enter his dissent. And such journal shall he
laid before the General Assembly when called for by them.
XVII. That there shall be a seal of this State, which shall
be kept by the Governor, and used by him, as occasion may require;
and shall be called, The
Great Seal of the State of North Carolina, and be affixed to
all grants and commissions.
XVIII. The Governor. for the time being, shall be
captain-general and commander in chief of the militia; and, in the
recess of the General Assembly, shall have power, by and with the
advice of the Council of State, to embody the militia for the
XIX.(4) That the Governor,
for the tine beings shall have power to draw for and apply such
sums of money as shall be voted by the general assembly, for the
contingencies of government, and be accountable to them for the
same. He also may, by and with the advice of the Council of State,
lay embargoes, or prohibit the exportation of any commodity, for
any term not exceeding thirty days, at any one time in the recess
of the General Assmably; and shall have the power of granting
pardons and reprieves, except where the prosecution shall be
carried on by the General Assembly, or the law shall otherwise
direct; in which case he may in the recess grant a reprieve until
the next sitting of the General Assembly; and may exercise all the
other executive powers of government, limited and restrained as by
this Constitution is mentioned, and according to the laws of the
State. And on his death, inability, or absence from the State, the
Speaker of the Senate for the time being -- (and in case of his
death, inability, or absence from the State, the Speaker of the
House of Commons) shall exercise the powers of government after
such death, or during such absence or inability of the Governor
(or Speaker of the Senate,) or until a new nomination is made by
the General Assembly.
XX. That in every case where any officer, the right of
whose appointment is by this Constitution vested in the General
Assembly, shall, during their recess, die, or his office by other
means become vacant, the Governor shall have power, with the
advice of the Council of State, to fill up such vacancy, by
granting a temporary commission, which shall expire at the end of
the next session of the General Assembly
XXI. That the Governor, Judges of the Supreme Court of Law
and Equity, Judges of Admiralty, and Attorney-General, shall have
adequate salaries during their continuance in office.
XXII. That the General Assembly shall, by joint ballot of
both Houses, annually appoint a Treasurer or Treasurers for this
XXIII. That the Governor, and other officers, offending
against the State, by violating any part of this Constitution,
mal-administration, or corruption, may be prosecuted, on the
impeachment of the General Assembly, or presentment of the Grand
Jury of any court of supreme jurisdiction in this State.
XXIV. That the General Assembly shall, by joint ballot of
both Houses, triennially appoint a Secretary for this State.
XXV. That no persons, who heretofore have been, or
hereafter may be, receivers of public the monies, shall have a
seat in either House of General Assembly, or be eligible to any
office in this State, until such person shall have fully accounted
for and paid into the treasury all sums for which they may he
accountable and liable.
XXVI. That no Treasurer shall have a seat, either in the
Senate, House of Commons, or Council of State, during his
continuance in that office, or before he shall have finally
settled his accounts with the public, for all the monies which may
be in his hands at the expiration of his office belonging to the
State, and hath paid the same into the hands of the succeeding
XXVII. That no officer in the regular army or navy, in the
service and pay of the United States, of this or any other State,
nor any contractor or agent for supplying such army or navy with
clothing or provisions, shall have a seat either in the Senate,
House of Commons, or Council of State, or be eligible thereto: and
any member of the Senate, House of Commons, or Council of State,
being appointed to and accepting of such office, shall thereby
vacate his seat.
XXVIII. That no member of the Councilof State shall have a
seat, either in the Senate, or House of Commons.
XXIX. That no Judge of the Supreme Court of Law or Equity,
or Judge of Admiralty, shall have a seat in the Senate, House of
Commons, or Council of State.
XXX. That no Secretary of this State, Attorney-General, or
Clerk of any Court of Record, shall have a seat in the Senate,
House of Commons, or Council of State.
XXXI. That no clergyman, or preacher of the gospels of any
denomination, shall be capable of being a member of either the
Senate, House of Commons, or Council of State, while he continues
in the exercise of the pastoral function.
XXXII.(5) That no person, who
shall deny the being of God or the truth of the Protestant
religion, or the divine authority either of the Old or New
Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible
with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of
holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil
department within this State.
XXXIII. That the Justices of the Peace, within their
respective counties in this State, shall in future be recommended
to the Governor for the time being, by the Representatives in
General Assembly; and the Governor shall commission them
accordingly: and the Justices, when so commissioned, shall hold
their offices during good behaviour, and shall not be removed from
office by the General Assembly, unless for misbehaviour, absence,
XXXIV. That there shall be no establishment of any one
religious church or denomination in this State, in preference to
any other; neither shall any person, on any presence whatsoever,
be compelled to attend any place of worship contrary to his own
faith or judgment, nor be obliged to pay, for the purchase of any
glebe, or the building of any house of worship, or for the
maintenance of any minister or ministry, contrary to what he
believes right, of has voluntarily and personally engaged to
perform; but all persons shall be at liberty to exercise their own
mode of worship: -- Provided,
That nothing herein contained shall be construed to exempt
preachers of treasonable or seditious discourses, from legal trial
XXXV. That no person in the State shall holtl mole than one
lucrative office, at any one time: -- Provided, That
no appointment in the militia, or the office of a Justice of the
Peace, shall be considered as a lucrative office.
XXXVI. That all commissions aml grants shall run in the
name of the State of North Carolina, and bear test, and be signed
by the Governor. All writs shall run in the same manner and bear
test, and be signed by the Clerks of the respective Courts.
Indictments shall conclude, Against
the peace and dignity of the estate.
XXXVII.(5) That the Delegates
for this State, to the Continental Congress while necessary, shall
be chosen annually by the General Assembly, by ballot; but may be
superseded, in the mean time, in the same manner; and no person
shall be electoral, to serve in that capacity, for more than three
XXXVIII. That there shall be a Sheriff, Coroner or
Coroners, and Constables, in each county within this State.
XXXIX. That the person of a debtor, where there is not a
strong presumption of fraud, shall not be continued in prison,
after delivering up, bona
fide, all his estate real and personal, for the use of his
creditors in such manner as shall be hereafter regulated by law.
All prisoners shall be bailable by sufficient sureties, unless for
capital offences when the proof is evident or the presumption
XL. That every foreigner, who comes to settle in this State
having first taken an oath of allegiance to the same, may
purchase, or, by other means, acquire, hold, and transfer land, or
other real estate; and after one year's residence, shall be deemed
a free citizen.
XLI. That a school or schools shall be established by the
Legislature, for the convenient instruction of youth, with such
salaries to the masters, paid by the public, as may enable them to
instruct at low prices; and all useful learning shall be duly
encouraged, and promoted, in one or more universities.
XLII. That no purchase of lands shall be made of the Indian
natives, but on behalf of the public, by authority of the General
XLIII. That the future Legislature of this State shall
regulate entails, in such a manner as to prevent perpetuities.
XLIV. That the Declaration of Rights is hereby declared to
be part of the Constitution of this State, and ought never to be
violated, on any presence whatsoever.
XLV. That any member of either House of General Assembly
shall have liberty to dissent from, and protest against any act or
resolve, which he may think injurious to the public, or any
individual, and have the reasons of his dissent entered on the
XLVI. That neither House of the General Assembly shall
proceed upon public business, unless a majority of all the members
of such House are actually present: and that, upon a motion made
and seconded, the yeas and nays, upon any question, shall be taken
and entered on the journals; and that the journals of the
proceedings of both Houses of the General Assembly shall be
printed, and made public, immediately after their adjournment.
This Constitution is not intended to preclude the present
Congress from making a temporary provision, for the well ordering
of this State, until the General Assembly shall establish
government, agreeable to the mode herein before described.
RICHARD CASWELL, President.
December the eighteenth, one thousand seven hundred and
seventy-six, read the third time, and ratified in open Congress.
JAMES GREEN, jun.
from "The Proceedings and Debates of the Convention of North
Carolina, called to amend the Constitution of the State, which
assembled at Raleigh, June 4, 1835. To which are subjoined the
Convention act and the Amendments to the Constitution together
with the votes of the People. Raleigh: Printed by Joseph Gales and
Son, 1836." Appendix, pp. 409 424. Back
constitution was framed by a " Congress," "elected and chosen for
that particular purpose," which assembled at Halifax November 12,
1776, and completed its labors December 18, 1776. It was not
submitted to the people for ratification. Back